June 7th, 2010
12:27 PM ET
13 years ago

Helen Thomas has retired, Hearst announces


Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas, 89, (pictured, center) was considered the dean of the White House press corps and held a privileged seat in the front row of the White House press briefing room. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)

Washington (CNN) – Longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas has retired effective immediately, Hearst Corporation said Monday.

The media conglomerate had employed Thomas, age 89, as a syndicated columnist for its newspaper chain.

Thomas, who was considered the dean of the White House press corps, had come under fire since late last week when a YouTube video surfaced showing her saying that Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine,” and that the Jewish people should go home to “Poland, Germany … and America and everywhere else.”

In a posting on her website last Friday, Thomas apologized for her remarks. “They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon,” she wrote.

But the apology was not enough to silence critics who began a rising chorus of calls for Thomas either to be terminated or suspended by Hearst.

Related video: Ari Fleischer slams Thomas

Just prior to Hearst’s announcement, the board of the White House Correspondents Association released a statement condemning Thomas’ remarks. The group of White House reporters, which includes CNN’s Ed Henry, called Thomas’ remarks “indefensible.”

The reporters’ statement said, “Many in our profession who have known Helen for years were saddened by the comments, which were especially unfortunate in light of her role as a trailblazer on the White House beat.”

And during a Monday morning briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs also criticized Thomas, saying, "Those remarks were offensive and reprehensible. I think she should and has apologized because obviously those remarks do not reflect the - certainly the opinion of, I assume, most of the people in here and certainly not of the administration."

Updated: 12:59 p.m.

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soundoff (323 Responses)
  1. $

    Outted herself. Good riddance to the anti-semitic old bag.

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  2. Mac

    The land in question is as much the property of Jews as Arabs. The fact is, anti-Semitism has been on the rise globally for years now, and it has nothing to do with Israel's land or their policies. But remember: there are only 14 million Jews in the world. There are over a one BILLION Muslims. Are you anti-Semites really claiming that a few million Jews have no right to a tiny piece of land in the middle of the desert where Jews have had a presence for thousands of years anyway? Despite the rationalizations, the truth is this: anyone who is continually against anything Israel does is aligning himself with terrorists. If the Palestinians could, they would instantly kill every single Jew in the world, even if the Israelis didn't have their own country. To be a Muslim is to hate and want to kill Jews. To be a Muslim is to hate and want to kill anyone who isn't Muslim. Who was flying those planes on 9/11?

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  3. GaryVN

    After so many years of asking questions perhaps she has forgotten what being an actual human meant.

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  4. Ari Fleisher got his wish.

    I think what Helen said was poorly worded and go see how jewish people could be offended. But Isreal needs to find a way to solve the problem in Palestine.

    Ari Fleisher was calling for her termination. Fleisher is the douchebag who lied to the american people on a constant basis for George Bush, and who's "media relations" company now represents Tiger Woods. Fleisher was questioned regarding the Scooter Libby outing of a CIA agent.


    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  5. brian

    Um, people, isn't the point here that journalists should investigate and report the news, NOT EXPRESS OPINIONS... (ahem, Glenn Beck, etc.)

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  6. John

    Awwweee...I am going to miss her questions that SHE thought were so intelligent and well thought out.

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. Mark

    Too bad she didn't put her foot in her mouth years ago. At least now she'll have time to read some history books and learn that long before the area was ever called Palestine, it was called Eratz Yisroael. You know, where Jesus was born and had his Bar Mitzvah.

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  8. Tom

    How distressing when the truth can not be told or you are branded a bigot/antisemite.....too bad Helen

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. Maria

    I would love to know what would have happened had she told the Middle Eastern muslims in the U.S. to go back to the Middle East since the ones that planned 9/11 were living here in the U.S? Ummmm same thing but probably on a larger scale. Better off with one less anti-semite biggot!!

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  10. niko

    So much for "Free Speech" ..... one thing you can not talk about in the USA is a corrupt/do it my way or else Israel. How many of Israel's leaders are being investigated or have been investigated?? Israel is doing the same thing to the Palestinians that Germany did to them and both situations are/was despicable.

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. Ted K.

    joe stevens: Well said. You can not dare say anything bad againsts Jews or Israel in the USA or Europe.. The chosen people..

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  12. KGH

    A sad end to a distinguished career.

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  13. Nan

    Helen – I wish you had not retired due to this "controversy". You have been a cornerstone of journalism in the White House for as long as I can remember – and that goes back to when she was first introduced into the WH Press Corps – long time. During that time you never failed to ask the hard questions of sitting Presidents, searching for the facts – not just the grandiose and spectacular. So, when you are asked for your opinion – which you are guaranteed under American law – you are vilified because people don't get it – they don't understand what they should understand. What you said was the truth. However blunt or raw it was. It was a hope that a people can finally go back home to the places where they were uprooted, their families ripped from each other so they can finally find peace. I do hope peace comes to the Middle East – and if relocation – going back home does that – then maybe it is worthy of consideration. It's a hot topic – and difficult to see in a calm manner – I understand that. I sincerely hope this can be discussed in a better way when the dust settles and tempers are not as hot. It is an important topic. Thank you for your years of service to truth in journalism Helen.

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. Michael S

    @ NORRIS

    way to generalize millions of people.

    Tell me how are you comments different from hers?

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. Matt

    What if she would have said "All the black need to go back to Africa" I bet she would not have "retired" instead she would have been "fired" DOUBLE STANDARD!

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. Jonathan

    I agree that Israel was an illegally created State and that it should give back to Palestine what is rightfully its territory. However, she made a big error in judgement on how she worded her views.

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. Doug

    Good bye and good riddance. And, this is not an exclusively Jewish phenomenon either. Don't forget that Don Imus was fired after Al Sharpton got his shorts in a bunch for insensitive comments he made about the Rutgers basketball team. Not to justify Imus' comments at all, but he was paid to be controversial. She was paid to report the news and not make it.

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. Max

    This of course is a non-issue. The Israeli PR machine is just trying to take air time away from the real issue of their continued apartheid of and murder of the palestinians. Many brave Israelis and brave Jews speak about this injustice and how it's not in line with the values of their forefathers who suffered so much throughout centuries. The brave and just ones realize that to do this to another human being is just plain wrong and no one will win in the end. When will it end?

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. Nancy

    And if she had said "all the Negroes in the United States should go back to Africa where they came from" would all of you who think her right to speak her mind had been violated think she should still continue as the White House correspondent for a major news organization? She was a great journalist in her time, but her time has quite obviously passed.

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. Tony

    To all those who call her an anti-semite. Why is she an anti-semite if she does not support the creation of Isreal? The reality is that Isreal was once called Palestine, that in 1940s it was artificially created by the UN/British/U.S. and that in many cases Arab lands and homes which were legitimately deeded were confiscated. In fact many Arabs today are still trying to fight in the Isreali Courts for the return of their homes and farms which were confiscated by the Isreali government and given to Jewish immigrants arriving from Europe, the U.S. and Russia. I am not sayng I agree with her, but that it is not anti-semitic to support such a position if it is based on an historical understanding of the creation of Isreal and not just a hatred for individuals of Jewish ancestry.

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  21. Tori in Texas

    Funny how, in the US today, tea baggers can go around carrying clearly racist signs of Obama as a African with a bone through his nose or with a Hitler mustache, but God forbid someone give their own personal opinion about Isreal and they are called anti-sementic. As far as I'm conerned, I/P has been at war before I was born and they will still be at war long after I'm dead. Why Americans support either side of this nonsense is beyond me. Build a wall around the ME and let them all kill each other if that's what they want to do. No one can stop them from hating each other, so why should we get involved? Oil? Forget it – we need our own energy source so we can get the heck out of the ME forever. There will never be peace until people learn to love their children more than they hate their enemies.

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. JJ in NY

    Helen Thomas was a dinosaur.... and a senile one at that . She has been wasting space in the WH press room for way to long. Everyone knew she was a political bigot, but now they know that she's also an anti-Semite.

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  23. Edgy DC

    How has her free speech been taken from her?

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  24. Mike in NYC

    She probably figured that at this point in her life, it was safe to speak truth to power.

    Now let's watch her cave to fat Abe Foxman's whining that her apology wasn't abject enough.

    June 7, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  25. Martin

    Essentially she got fired for speaking the truth.

    It's amazing that the minute someone in the MSM reports what's actually happening, they end up getting canned. CAll it a retirement if you like, but we all know reality.

    It's interesting that she gets canned for telling the truth then they can't even tell the truth about her firing.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
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